My body is my own

David Miller

  • Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality by G.A. Cohen
    Cambridge, 277 pp, £40.00, October 1995, ISBN 0 521 47174 5

At the heart of 19th-century socialism lay a vision of a moral world in which men and women would co-operate freely with one another to meet their common needs, a world in which, therefore, neither vulgar material inducements nor orders from on high were needed to get the work of society done. In Fourier’s Phalanxes an elaborate system of co-operative production was to allow each Harmonian to take on seven or eight different types of attractive work in a single day; similarly, in Marx’s vision of communism, people moved freely between hunting, fishing and raising cattle, and served one another according to the principle, ‘to each according to his needs’; in William Morris’s land of Nowhere, Dick the boatman is puzzled when the narrator attempts to pay for his ride and explains that ‘this ferrying and giving people casts about the water is my business, which I would do for anybody.’

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